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Eldorado Peak as second climb

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Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby ty454 » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:53 pm

In September my wife and I did the week long AAI mountaineering course for beginners on Mt. Baker. It's been a couple months and we're itching for a second climb. Eldorado has been on my mind since before the class and I'd really like us to climb it. I have a couple questions:

1. From my reading, Eldorado seems to be rather non-technical via the inspiration glacier. Would it be suitable for a second climb? Mt. Baker seemed pretty easy so if it's no more technical than Baker then I'd think it wouldn't be too bad for us, depending on weather. We will be in excellent physical shape so that's not a concern.

2. It'd be just the two of us. My primary concern would be crevasses, of course. We have been and will continue to practice crevasse rescue skills at home. Nonetheless, we can't practice *actual* crevasse rescues on the East coast. I'd try to build in an extra day to play around on the glacier and practice skills again before the climb. What is the typical crevasse situation there? Avoidable?

3. How soon could we climb it? I've been watching the weather for Eldorado via the web for the past month or so and it doesn't seem that bad so far - summit temps in the 10 DegF range with occasional lights snows (4-8"). Is that typical for early winter - compared to Baker that seems to get 2ft of snow per day? Would late-Feb or early-March be a reasonable goal for an attempt? I'd prefer not to have to wait until next summer to climb again. I don't mind post-holing or snowshoeing through 1-2ft of powder, but I don't want us to be swimming in snow in constant fear of avalanches.

4. What kind of pro would you bring (maybe depends on #3)? We have pickets and would plan on taking them (2x ea), but would flukes or screws be prudent if we went earlier in the season like I was hoping to? We'll be carrying a 60m rope.

I think that's good to start, any advice?
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby jordansahls » Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:31 am

Honestly, I would wait until spring or summer before attempting Eldorado. So far, the late fall/early winter has been very very mild, but that doesn't mean the weather wont turn at any moment. Also, it's a crap shoot as to how far you can get up the cascade river road in late Feb early March. Sometimes you can drive all the way to Eldo creek, often times you won't be able to get even remotely close (avalanches usually block the road every year). It's a long way to travel from the east coast to hang out in the piss with no guarantee of a climb (getting a good weather window in Feb and March is like playing Russian roulette at the best, and even if you do get a few blue bird days there is no guarantee that the road will be open or that snow conditions will be stable).

Honestly, I think you're better off going somewhere with more predictable weather and a more favorable historic weather profile for the winter months.

If you and your wife are set on climbing Eldorado I would make it a smash and grab ascent. Keep in contact with the Marblemount ranger station, get constant updates on road conditions and check the NWAC for avy conditions. If it looks like you will be getting a good weather window and the road/trail/snow conditions are good, grab your stuff, purchase your tickets and get in, climb it, and get out before the weather closes.

As far as crevasse danger, it tends to be minimal in the winter. The Eldorado area gets hammered with snow, almost as much as Baker so I would be more concerned about avy conditions. In general, the crevasses tend to fill up during the winter. Still, bring your crevasse rescue A-game. Also, a large majority of the crevasses on the Inspiration glacier lie near the east end where the glacier starts to roll down towards Moraine lake so you can avoid them by trending a little bit west.

I don't see a use for Pickets, unless you want them for the knife ridge, or you plan on using them as dead-man-style anchors. I have always had better luck with Flukes. Screws wont be needed unless you are considering climbing the NW couloir.

Anyway, I hope this helps. Also, when it get's closer to Feb/March I would ask for current conditions over on the cascadeclimbers.com forum. It's a bunch of PNW locals who have a lot of knowledge about the North Cascades (you might also consider taking your current question there for a second opinion).

Good Luck!
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby mvs » Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:13 pm

Let me echo what Jordan said and then go way more pessimistic. It's a terrible idea! Nobody walks in and climbs that stuff until at least May. If you are going to travel on skis then it could be done with a bluebird forecast. But it would just be no fun at all. People in the Northwest are ambitious and get a lot done in the summer, precisely because you just can't use the mountains very much outside of that. Do something else and save your plane tickets to Seattle for July or August, it will be so so so much more fun.

There is usually one week or 1.5 weeks in the winter with cold, clear weather. The rest is endless stratus clouds marching in from the southwest.
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Nov 17, 2012 4:46 am

I personally have climbed Eldorado Peak 3 times and still would love to make another return. :) The East Ridge is a moderate route but is fun non the less.

As mentioned above, aim for the gap as seen in this shot:

Image

Crevasse danger is fairly low, although I still rope up on this all year round. The bottom of the East ridge is the most likely place you would run into crevasses which is a short section. After the start of the east ridge you can stay left and stay mostly off the glacier.

I will echo the bad weather and avalanche danger factor. Eldorado was quite spectacular for views which you don't want to miss. Not a complicated mountain, but not one to be messed with either. :wink: However, during winter there are periods of lucky days. Last year early December was a lucky strike as well as January 11-12, 2012. February is usually the best winter month from my experience. I personally climbed Eldorado in winter which it was awesome! But be warned, it is not easy! Climbing Eldorado in winter makes Rainier or Baker look like a walk in the park (well technically Rainier is). :wink: This is because of the snow conditions, on my Eldorado Peak page I made a big mentioning about this. Twice now I've seen the snow on Eldorado get very lousy, the second time we rushed out in time to avoid this. It was some of the worst snow conditions imaginable (this is on the way down). I call it "The Imagination Stretched". Sinking though icy snow that is no good for snowshoes. I had times where I had to dig myself out which would take minutes to do. Next step the same thing happened all over. It truly was an amazing experience watching the sunset and blue colors while going though this level of intense plowing. But it was very tiring. Anyways, end of rant. Late Spring is better for most folks, but the die hard fans can try earlier.
My Websites: Alpine Josh · Alpine Ascent · AceMaps
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby mvs » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:09 pm

I feel bad for being so negative. But what makes me so opinionated on it is really the distance the OP has to travel to get in the area. If you live nearby then anything can eventually happen if you want it bad enough, including climbing Eldorado in Jan, Feb or Mar. It's certainly been done two dozen times and if the conditions and free time were right then I'd want to crunch up the closed Cascade River Road myself. Realistically, there would probably be 1-2 postponements and even 1 failed attempt before success though, entirely due to weather and snow conditions. I just put myself in the OPs place and imagine adding that to the stress of a plane trip with one shot at it and start to get a stomach ache! :D

It is an excellent mountain and congratulations for starting a great adventure in climbing!
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby nickmech » Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:54 pm

I would agree with the advise so far. Eldo may only be 8800ft. and not technically difficult, but the North Cascades in winter by a rope team of two rookies into an area you've never been will be a challenge. You get to the arete and it doesn't feel like a little mountain. Weather and deep,deep snow have allready been mentioned. Your AAI climbing class on Baker in summer was easy cheazy in comparison. But hey, I would never tell you not to try. Gear up, come on out and see what happens. If you get the weather window and feel good go for it with due caution to turn around if need be. If it's cruddy you will still get a taste of the mountains and a desire to come back and try again.
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby ty454 » Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:48 pm

Thanks all for the responses. Funny that the day after I posted this thread the weather took a turn for the worse and it's been heavy snow pretty much every day since. Unfortunately it looks like I'll have to wait until things get warmer next year before an attempt. Because I do have to fly completely across the country, and due to the realities of full-time jobs, I can't just pack up and go on a whim given a 2-3 day weather window. That's life I guess. Perhaps if I had already done it once or twice I'd be more keen on giving it a try over the winter.

Is May when the roads typically re-open in the area? I imagine it's variable depending on the winter. I'd certainly like to try and get a climb in before July-August if possible. That's like 9 months away... :(


Sigh, looks like I just have to wait and satisfy my urges with some winter backpacking trips in the Appalachians.
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby mroutdoorsman » Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:02 pm

ty454 wrote:Thanks all for the responses. Funny that the day after I posted this thread the weather took a turn for the worse and it's been heavy snow pretty much every day since. Unfortunately it looks like I'll have to wait until things get warmer next year before an attempt. Because I do have to fly completely across the country, and due to the realities of full-time jobs, I can't just pack up and go on a whim given a 2-3 day weather window. That's life I guess. Perhaps if I had already done it once or twice I'd be more keen on giving it a try over the winter.

Is May when the roads typically re-open in the area? I imagine it's variable depending on the winter. I'd certainly like to try and get a climb in before July-August if possible. That's like 9 months away... :(


Sigh, looks like I just have to wait and satisfy my urges with some winter backpacking trips in the Appalachians.


Go climb Guye Peak or Mt Dickerman or Snoqualmie or even Arrowhead. All great and fairly easy single day trips that will be pretty satisfying.
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby mvs » Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:47 pm

Nope, May is too early for the really mind blowing North Cascades stuff, so is June, unless (again) you are lucky with the weather window. Recognize it'll be plenty of postholing in gaitors even then. If you really want a trip to Washington in May or June, look to hike in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness a bit further south, and focus more on the eastern side of the range like the Stuart Range/Enchantments.

It is continually surprising to people that June is not really summer in Washington. It's not the latitude that does it, it's the weather coming from the Pacific.

(edit: I've made a fair number of good trips in May/June, having climbed Eldorado in both of those months, and actually May is when "volcano climbing season" starts. So again, I'm just speaking from the perspective of wanting my money's worth when coming from far away. Bad weather can last for 2-3 weeks at a time in those months and that's normal, not a "fluke.")
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Re: Eldorado Peak as second climb

Postby Wastral » Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:03 am

Almost all of my "winter" climbs have turned into winter attempts. Anymore, I don't even bother to try for a peak per se, but rather go snowshoeing, and IF the conditions make it worth while, head for the peak and then get off ASAP before the avalanches start up again.

Personally "bagging" a peak when it is clouded in is certainly NOT worth the avalanche risk in Winter time. Summer time its always, "It might clear" you never know! Winter time its more like, "How many more inches of snow will fall before I get down and what will the temperatures do while I am climbing?

It is not unheard of for a typical bi daily cold/warm front to move through the cascades off of the Pacific and radically change the avalanche danger from "safe" to, "RUN YOU DUMB MORON" in a few hours. Likewise, if it is sunny in the Cascades in the Winter time, usually the avalanche danger is EXTREME, not high, but Extreme. Usually we have a week long period of cold clear weather coming out of Canada. Of course if you have this much time, go to Canada Rockies! Banff/Jasper/Yoho in winter is awesome when its clear.

Generally, "peak bagging" in the winter time in the cascades is done under slate grey skies under snow showers and "moderate" avalanche danger. Likewise how much experience do you have with wind loaded slopes and how to "see" them?

PS. If Cascade river Road is closed shorter, can cross country it via maple creek. I have done that before in winter. Didn't climb anything just went to the base of Eldo.
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